1931 Epsom Derby (lost televised footage of horse racing event; 1931)
The 1931 Epsom Derby was a horse racing event that occurred on 3rd June, 1931. The race would be won by Cameronian, with Freddie Fox as his jockey. The event marked three major milestones in television broadcasting; not only was it the first televised horse race, it was also the first televised sporting event. Additionally, it is known as the first remote outside television broadcast.
Background[edit | edit source]
The Epsom Derby has been held since 1780, and is considered the biggest flat horse race of its kind in the United Kingdom, forming one of the five British Classics Races. Heading into the 1931 Epsom Derby event, Cameronian, a Thoroughbred sire, was the 7/2 favourite. He had already achieved success earlier in the year, having won the 2,000 Guineas with Jockey Joseph Childs. For the Derby, he would be ridden by Freddie Fox, who was then the reigning Champion Jockey of flat racing and had ridden Diolite to success in the 1930 staging of the 2,000 Guineas event.
While normal proceedings for the Epsom Derby itself transpired, the event was set to mark a few critical moments in television history. John Logie Baird, one of the pioneers of television, had been making progress with his inventions since the late-1920s, including establishing Baird Television Development Company Ltd in 1927, and in 1928 where he successfully had his mechanical televisions produce images outside a studio. In May 1931, Baird continued his experiments, including inserting a scanner inside an old caravan for which it would be parked in the streets of London to allow for BBC programming, for which Baird had struck a deal with to produce occasional programming. As he watched horses being directed from Long Acre towards Covent Garden market, he began to evaluate the idea of televising the Epsom Derby.
After showing the street scene during a small press conference on 8th May, 1931, Braid announced his company would broadcast the Derby, and claimed that 'that the fact that one was able to pick up the street scene showed that the idea of televising the Derby or cricketers at Lord’s was not so fantastic as some imagined'. Despite media scepticism concerning Braid's claim, progress had already been made two days earlier, with an agreement made with the Epsom Derby organisers to add a television transmitter on the course. On 19th May, Sydney Moseley, Braid's business manager and publicist, wrote to the BBC asking for the provision of transmitters on Derby day for Braid Television to utilise. The BBC accepted this, providing that commentary from Moseley was on a separate telephone line from the BBC and that said commentary would not cause any interference with the BBC's own radio commentary.
Considering the fact that no remote outside television broadcast had ever previously been achieved, Braid conducted a test broadcast the day prior to the Derby, showcasing one of the minor races. Four televisions at Long Acre did successfully receive the picture that was obtained from fifteen miles, but it was blurry. Hence, there was concern leading up to the broadcast that the picture quality would not satisfy viewers on race day.
The Broadcast[edit | edit source]
On 3rd June, the Epsom Derby commenced, with spectators witnessing Cameronian win the event in a time of 2:36.6, with a race-winning length distance of three-quarters ahead of the second-placed horse. At the same time, television history was being made, with up to 5,000 people watching the live broadcast. The media were mixed regarding the quality of the broadcast; whereas some did criticise the flickering picture quality, with it only being around a 7:3 portrait aspect ratio that was not really ideal for televising horse racing, others, including The Falkirk Herald, were pleased with the fact a broadcast was achieved in general.
In issue 8,407 of Falkirk Herald, the paper noted that in spite of the occasional quality issues, the broadcast still gave the feeling of attending the event in-person, and noted that viewers from across the country had successfully picked up the feed and were also praising the revolutionary broadcast. Therefore, Braid would continue to develop and present the mechanical television in both the UK and in the United States. He would also begin the work needed to televise the 1932 Epsom Derby.
Availability[edit | edit source]
While some footage of the 1931 Epsom Derby itself remains publicly accessible thanks to surviving newsreel footage, the television coverage was filmed live and was not recorded directly recorded, as there were no means of achieving this prior to the end of the Second World War. Thus, all televised footage of this horse race is now permanently missing. Nevertheless, a few photos, including of the Baird Television Caravan, help to document the broadcast.
Gallery[edit | edit source]
Images[edit | edit source]
Video[edit | edit source]
See Also[edit | edit source]
- 1934 Philo T. Farnsworth broadcasts (lost early television demonstrations; 1934)
- 1936 Summer Olympics (lost television coverage of Berlin Games; 1936)
- 1937 FA Cup Final (partially found footage of football match; 1937)
- 1937 International Imperial Trophy Race (lost footage of motor race; 1937)
- 1937 Wimbledon Championships (partially found footage of tennis tournament; 1937)
- 1938 Ashes Series (partially found footage of international test cricket match; 1938)
- 1938 FA Cup Final (partially found footage of football match; 1938)
- 1938 Pennsylvania Quakers football season (lost early televised college football games; 1938)
- 1939 FA Cup Final (partially found footage of football match; 1939)
- 1953 British Grand Prix (partially found footage of Formula One race; 1953)
- 1960 Daytona Races (lost CBS and NBC televised footage of NASCAR prelude events to Daytona 500; 1960)
- Arsenal vs Arsenal Reserves (lost footage of early BBC televised football match; 1937)
- Brooklyn Dodgers 2-5 6-1 Cincinnati Reds (lost footage of MLB doubleheader; 1939)
- Brooklyn Dodgers 23-14 Philadelphia Eagles (lost footage of NFL game; 1939)
- Catch-As-Catch-Can Wrestling (lost early BBC televised professional wrestling matches; 1938-1939; 1946-1947)
- Columbia Lions 1-2 Princeton Tigers (partially found footage of college baseball game; 1939)
- England 0-1 Scotland (partially found international football match; 1938)
- England 16-21 Scotland (partially found footage of rugby match; 1938)
- Fordham Rams 34-7 Waynesburg Yellow Jackets (lost footage of college football game; 1939)
- Indianapolis 500 WFBM-TV Broadcasts (lost racing footage; 1949-1950)
- The Boat Race 1938 (partially found footage of rowing race; 1938)
External Link[edit | edit source]
References[edit | edit source]
- Keith Prowse discussing the Epsom Derby. Retrieved 28 Oct '21
- Britannica definition of the Classics. Retrieved 28 Oct '21
- The Evening Post reporting on Cameronian's win at the 1930 2,000 Guineas. Retrieved 28 Oct '21
- Archived National Horseracing Museum biography of Freddie Fox. Retrieved 28 Oct '21
- BBC providing a history of John Logie Baird's television experiments. Retrieved 28 Oct '21
- March 2010 issue of Prospero detailing the history of Baird's broadcasts, and his inspiration for televising the Epsom Derby. Retrieved 28 Oct '21
- British Television: The Formative Years detailing how the coverage of the Epsom Derby was announced, and the successful negotiations Sydney Moseley made with the BBC over broadcasting the event. Retrieved 28 Oct '21
- Issue 4,772 of the Daily Herald reporting on the test broadcast and promoting the Epsom Derby coverage. Retrieved 28 Oct '21
- Issue 130 of The Evening Post reporting on the 1931 Epsom Derby results. Retrieved 28 Oct '21
- Epsom & Ewell History Explorer crediting the televised 1931 Epsom Derby as being the first remote outside television broadcast and discussing how it was televised. Retrieved 28 Oct '21
- Issue 8,407 of The Falkirk Herald, which reviewed the television coverage of the Epsom Derby. Retrieved 28 Oct '21
- Web Archive article discussing how most pre-Second World War television is missing due to no means of directly recording television. Retrieved 28 Oct '21